In July, Nancy Yedlin, Donaghue Vice President, attended the second Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health held in San Jose, California. The institute was sponsored by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The goal of this five-day training workshop was to provide the 36 participants with a thorough grounding in conducting dissemination and implementation research in health. The trainees, all researchers who arrived at the workshop with a specific research project to refine throughout the week, came from academic institutions. Although most were from U.S., a few trainees came from other countries, bringing an international perspective on this topic.

The Institute agenda featured faculty from several universities and the sponsoring government agencies, who gave presentations and worked in small groups with the trainees on their research projects. Topics over the five days included the rational for the science itself; appropriate interventions, methodologies and measurements for conducting dissemination and implementation work; and looking at how dissemination and implementation research can contribute to some of today’s larger issues in health and health research, such as addressing disparities, engaging patients in comparative effectiveness research, and conducting research that will be actionable and useful to policymakers and practitioners.

Yedlin served as a guest faculty member for the institute and gave a brief presentation on the non-governmental funder’s perspective on dissemination and implementation research. While many non-governmental funders, including Donaghue, make grants to support the development and testing of effective methods to prevent disease or to improve health or health care systems, there is often some frustration among those who fund research because so few are able to gain widespread traction outside the research community. The standard closing lines of many journal articles that say “more research is needed” may be true, but increasingly those who pay for that research are feeling that “more implementation is needed” is equally true.

But what is the best way to get that scale up accomplished? This is the basic issue that dissemination and implementation research aims to resolve. Increasingly, mixed research methods – having a design strategy that includes both quantitative and qualitative data analysis – is recognized as a powerful tool for this type of study. Another area under discussion is the fact that although randomized control trials are effective for controlling competing hypotheses for why a new intervention may work, RCTs are poorly suited for understanding the external context in which the intervention is situated. And implementation is all about moving an effective innovation to the next external context. Dissemination and implementation research, therefore, is often focused on studying the characteristics of the larger environment in which new health interventions are placed.

“I really found my week spent at the institute valuable” says Yedlin. “I learned a great deal from the terrific faculty and trainees and was able to contribute a funder’s perspective that was different from the government funders who participated. I believe this experience will help Donaghue be a more effective grant maker.”

Check out the TIDIRH website for the presentations from the 2012 Institute.